Women in Dalit Literature: Voice, Agency, and Subjectivity

This paper deals with issues of marginalization of women, their lack of agency, of voice and their subjectivity as reflected in Dalit literature. The emphasis is on the texts like Bama’s “Sangati” (2001) and Baby Kamble’s “Jina Amucha” (2008). Using feminist standpoint, the authors have analyzed how Dalit women have been treated and what their roles have been in their social context. As we know, Dalit connotes marginalized group that has historically suffered exploitation and oppression in Indian society. This oppression is reflected, to an extent, in the genre of work comprehended as Dalit Literature. Dalit Literature delineates their consciousness, experiences, as well as their anguish. The authors would like to understand the lived experiences of women from this canon of work. The discourse analysis of the selected texts (Sangati and Jina Amucha) suggests that along with caste, gender is another vector along which the tentacles of oppression can be comprehended. Caste and class are different social categories, but they seem to be operational together and in consonance with gender in the Dalit literature. Oppression of, and along, multiple processes makes it very difficult for women to realize their being. Women do not seem to have, as reflected in the two selected texts, appropriate conditions to know and act as subject. On the contrary they are treated as object that are known and acted upon. The cultures of the community where Dalit women make meaning of their everyday experiences cajole a culture of silence and domination from people and practices higher up in the social hierarchy. We must understand this and other kinds of oppressions as represented in our literature. To know is the first step in visualizing social change. The authors hope that this comprehension and advocacy will help Dalit women fight oppression in solidarity with other marginalized groups.

This paper is to be by Dr. Aditya Rajand his PhD student, Pooja,at the Diamond Jubilee Conference of All India Sociological Society at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, New Delhi from December 11-13, 2011.